An upcoming interactive art event will benefit a local nonprofit, and a local organizer is excited to share her Upcycle philosophy at an upcoming event with artisan demonstrations, booths, a book signing of her own, Upcycle, and the release of her album of the same name.

The event is organized by author and songwriter Bree Bodnar, a poet, publisher and artist, and will be held Saturday, July 23 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Stargazer Plaza, 612 Main Street in Shelbyville. The event will go to benefit the Operation Care Transitional Housing Program for Women & Children, which shelters women and children and helps them move from homelessness to self-reliance.

Bodnar’s project, Upcycle is an event, book, original album, and interactive workshop. She received a grant made possible by "Arts Meets Activism" from Kentucky Foundation for Women, used to benefit Operation Care.

"Upcycling" is to repurpose or restore materials to create something of greater monetary or environmental value. Bodnar gave the word an additional definition: using music and art-making to break cycles of trauma and create something valuable and empowering.


The interactive art event includes upcycling demonstrations from local artists and artisans.

Attendees may bid on items upcycled by residents of the TH program, or buy tickets for various items to be raffled. For a small fee, members of the public can create their own upcycled bird houses, frame art, drink trays and more from rescued materials, to take home.

Attendees have the option to make their own art at no charge during the event, such as a bird feeder out of a saucer and cup, wall art from slabs of wood, picture frames and a serving tray from reclaimed wood.

There will be a demo from Melissa Jesse, general manager of Shelby County Hardwood, and she will donate materials using wood from their sustainable forest. Every tree cut down means 20 more are planted.

Attendees may also speak with artists/artisans and learn their method and process, browse upcycled art, furniture and housewares. Six artisans/artists will lead hands on activities, and six will represent their works for sale, raffle or auction.

The Bell House will donate bruschetta and refreshments for this event. There will also be a silent auction and raffle and a bake sale to benefit Operation Care. For a more substantial meal, local food truck, Taqueria La Nayarita, will sell meals.

Sponsors include The Bell House restaurant, Barrel Room, Sixth & Main Coffee House, Pontrich Floor Covering, Chalk Couture, Nugget & Co., Texas Roadhouse, JP Wood Designs, Sweet Waddy Jane, Gaines Painting and Kentucky Foundation for Women, among others to be announced.

Album release and book

Bodnar will sell and sign her book, Upcycle, with her album release that day, named the same. The book speaks of her experiences growing up with violence and how artistic expression helped her recover and includes 44 original song lyrics, one for each year of her life, and a personal essay about how she used poetry and songwriting to transcend trauma with background information and stories.

Like Prince and Cher, when Bodnar creates, she goes by simply Bree.

The album may be purchased at on or after July 23.

Around the time Bodnar arrived in Shelby County, she was at Lewis Mathis’ last 6th Street Live performance. “I was able to sing at that,” she said, and met other musicians who worked with her on the album. Collaborators are Mathis, Mason Daugherty and Wes Thompson on the album Upcycle.

The book is sold at 6th and Main Coffee House and can be ordered through any bookstore or library, Bodnar said, or by emailing Green Panda Press, a publisher she created in 2001, at,

She wrote the book and lyrics with women in mind.


Bodnar won a grant from Kentucky Foundation for Women to inspire women and families to use art as a way to help in a bad situation and the trauma often associated with homelessness. “

Bodnar received a $3,359 KFW 2021 grant, which paid for her project in 2022 of upcycling, a book and album, and a workshop at the Operation Care shelter.

She would love to apply for the KFW grant again to be able to do more gatherings like the July 23 event. “I’d like to do more community events involving art,” she said.

The first event is motivation to meet people and forge relationships in the community so folks can combine effort at other venues in the community.

“The next event I want to do is the first ever Shelbyville poetry festival, which will be five events to take place next May at various venues in and around Shelbyville, indoors and out.”

Sharing experience

Bodnar, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, moved first to Pleasureville in 2014 and now lives in Waddy in a former post office.

She had a rough start in life and understands some of what women at the shelter are going through. She grew up “with violence in the house,” she said. “My life hasn’t been easy. I managed to make it out. Some aren’t as lucky. I’m in a good place now.”

Bodnar survived by funneling her emotions into poetry and songwriting. “Trauma can impact art, writing and help you focus,” she said.

During the workshop at the local shelter, Bodnar told her story. Residents could relate to her, as well as learn skills in upcycling items to sell to supplement to their income. She told her story of before, how artistic expression helped her get out of a bad situation, and encouraged these women to upcycle reused material.

Art, she said, can be used simply for joy but can also be natural therapy to overcome abuse and trauma and encourage women to explore whatever genre they choose to find their own voice.

“At the workshop, one woman said she hoped I never stopped speaking. Another said she couldn’t wait for me to stop talking to applaud,” Bodnar said.

“The workshop was successful because I was able to connect on a personal level with women who are residents of the transitional housing program,” she said. “Being lucky enough to have had a support system, despite obstacles, I never had to take advantage of a such a program. And having been in a space where my life has felt easy for some time, I wanted to show my gratitude by imparting how art-making heals the body and mind, boosts self-esteem and builds the ability to focus.”

Bodnar hopes to be a regular at Operation Care, perhaps showing up when a new resident comes in.